Frequently Asked Questions about Ethics

What is the Committee on Ethics?

The Committee on Ethics (CoE) is an arm’s-length standing committee of the Canadian Psychological Association Board of Directors. The CoE reports to the Board of Directors through the Committee Chair and a member of the Board of Directors appointed by the Board to be Board Liaison to the Committee.

The CoE is available to the CPA Board of Directors and Head Office staff to:

  1. respond to ethics-related questions and requests for ethics consultation from CPA Members and Affiliates, Psychology or other organizations, and members of the public;
  2. generate formal opinions on specific ethical questions/issues;
  3. consider the need for and develop new ethical guidelines for approval by the Board;
  4. guide the development of and revisions to the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists (or successive Codes as adopted by the Board of Directors);
  5. develop and/or provide educational ethics resources for Members and Affiliates;
  6. review and provide recommendations when there are self-disclosures (e.g., declarations on membership application forms) or external reports (e.g., regulatory/licensing/certification body reports, media reports, court records) of serious unethical or illegal conduct by CPA Members; and
  7. review and seek informal resolution, or provide recommendations, regarding complaints of alleged unethical conduct when the complaints are against CPA Members and serious enough to warrant a review, and when there is no alternative forum (e.g., regulatory/licensing/certification body, research ethics board, complaint structure within a university).

The CPA Board of Directors recently changed their operating procedures with respect to (vi) and (vii) above , insofar as only Members, not Affiliates, are subject to these procedures.  With the exception of misuse of Affiliate status to imply a credential or licensure, the CPA Committee on Ethics no longer reviews self-disclosures and external reports regarding Affiliates, and can now only accept complaints of unethical behaviour against Members (not Affiliates), and then only under certain circumstances.

Per Section I.D of the Committee on Ethics’ Terms of Reference, “the Committee does not have the authority to make policy or policy decisions on behalf of the Association, nor to suspend, expel, or reinstate Members of the Association. The Committee’s opinions and recommendations on such matters are advisory”.

MEMBERSHIP – APPLICATIONS

Why does the CPA ask, on its application form, if I have ever been convicted of a serious offence or sanctioned by a regulatory body or other organization?

All Members of the CPA are required to follow the principles and values of the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists, and the CPA has the right to refuse or revoke membership of persons not meeting this requirement.

What is a serious offence?

A serious offence is defined by the CPA’s Rules and Procedures for Dealing with Reports and Complaints of Unethical Behaviour (found here: https://cpa.ca/aboutcpa/committees/ethics/rulesandproceduresfordealingwithethicalcomplaints/) as an infraction of the Criminal Code of Canada or related statutes that has resulted in a peace bond, a fine of $5000 or more, probation, or any period of post-conviction imprisonment, and would include conviction of any offence classified as an indictable or hybrid offence (hybrid offences are those offences where the Crown may choose to proceed by either indictment or summary conviction).

What is a “sanction”?

A sanction is any condition or penalty imposed by a disciplinary body because of conduct that was judged by that body to be unprofessional or unethical.  Sanctions can include, but are not limited to, fines, required education, required supervision, or temporary or permanent revocation of a license or certification to practice.

What happens when I say “yes” to the questions on the CPA membership application form asking about prior convictions or sanctions?

Your application will be forwarded to the Committee on Ethics (CoE) for review.  Please note that this review process can take between 6-8 weeks, and you may be asked for further information by the CPA Ethics Officer or the CoE.

Is answering “yes” to either question about prior convictions or sanctions on the CPA membership application form an automatic bar to membership?

No, the Committee on Ethics reviews each disclosure made by applicants on a case-by-case basis. They make recommendations based on a number of factors, including (but not limited to) its seriousness (e.g., as defined above for a conviction, or whether license or status with organization was suspended or revoked), the time since it occurred, whether there has been more than one incident, and fulfilment of any penalties or conditions.

What information does the Committee on Ethics need for a membership application review?

Depending on the nature of the infraction/sanction, the Committee on Ethics might request information related to the time since the offence/sanction, number of offences, behaviour since the offence, seriousness of the sanction or sentence, whether the practitioner’s license was suspended or revoked, and/or fulfilment of any penalties or conditions of probation.  Please note that this is not an exhaustive list of the information that could be requested, but rather serves as an example of the types of information in these cases.  It is also important to note that the Committee on Ethics cannot and does not re-adjudicate findings made by other appropriate bodies (such as professional regulators, courts, ethics or disciplinary committees) in the review of membership applications.

What happens after the Committee on Ethics reviews membership applications?

Once the information requested has been received and reviewed, the Committee on Ethics will recommend to the CPA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) or their designate that a membership application be granted, denied, or made provisional under specified conditions.  The CEO (or their designate) then has the final authority over whether to uphold the recommendation made by the Committee on Ethics.

Who should I inform if I disagree with the decision made about my membership application?

Any concerns related to the decision made by the CEO/designate should be forwarded to ethics@cpa.ca.


COMPLAINTS

NOTE: The information presented below only applies to CPA Members, not Affiliates. In 2020, the CPA Board of Directors decided that they would no longer refer complaints against CPA Student Affiliates or Special Affiliates to the Committee on Ethics. Any inquiries related to Student Affiliates or Special Affiliates should be forwarded to executiveoffice@cpa.ca.

The CPA accepts membership applications from licensed practitioners (e.g., licensed Psychologists, licensed counsellors, licensed psychotherapists), unlicensed practitioners, and non-practitioners (e.g., educators, scientists).

Types of CPA Members

CPA Members, Practitioner Members, Licensed Practitioners, Licensed Psychologists / Psychological Associates, Other Mental Health Professionals (Licensed Counsellors, Licensed Psychotherapists, etc.), Unlicensed Practitioners, Non-Practitioner Members, Scientists, Educators,

How is the CPA involved in complaints against its Members?

The CPA is a national, voluntary association of scientists, practitioners, educators, and students in Psychology, as well as members of other professions/disciplines related to Psychology.  The CPA does not certify, license, or regulate its practitioner Members or Affiliates to practice in Canada. That is the responsibility of provincial/territorial regulatory bodies of Psychology under their respective statutory laws.

The CPA has neither the authority nor the mandate to investigate complaints regarding unethical practice or behaviour of its practitioner Members.  As such, the CPA does not have the ability to professionally sanction its Members; it only has authority over whether those persons remain Members of the CPA.

Further, the CPA cannot contest or re-adjudicate complaints that already have been processed by regulatory bodies; since the CPA does not license its Members, we do not have the jurisdiction to affect that license in any way.  The only thing the CPA can do, in the case of a substantiated complaint, is to revoke the membership of the individual in question, and then only after a review by the Committee on Ethics and a recommendation by the Committee to the CPA’s Board of Directors that the membership be revoked.

How is the Committee on Ethics involved in complaints against its Members?

The Committee on Ethics (CoE) does not have the authority to expel or reinstate Members of the Association. The CoE’s opinions and recommendations on such matters are advisory to the CPA’s Board of Directors, who ultimately make the decisions about membership.

What should I do if I have a complaint about a CPA Member?

The CPA is a national, voluntary association of scientists, practitioners, educators and students in Psychology, as well as members of other professions related to Psychology.  The CPA does not certify, license, or regulate its Members to practice Psychology in Canada. That is the responsibility of provincial/territorial regulatory bodies of Psychology under their respective statutory laws.

In addition, some Members of the CPA are not practicing Psychologists, and may be Members of other professions, or employed by organizations that have separate complaints processes (e.g., universities, hospitals, research firms).

The CPA has neither the authority nor the mandate to investigate complaints regarding unethical practice or behaviour of its Members, nor does the CPA have the ability to professionally sanction its Members; it only has authority over whether those persons remain Members of the CPA.  Further, the CPA cannot contest or re-adjudicate complaints that have already been processed by regulatory bodies.

The professional practice of Psychology in Canada is regulated provincially/territorially; every province and territory has its own regulatory body by which professional Psychologists need to be licensed (or certified, registered, or chartered, depending on jurisdiction) in order to call themselves Psychologists and offer services.  For more information on the regulation and practice of Psychology in Canada, please see our practice regulation page at: https://cpa.ca/practice/practiceregulation/.

In other words, if you have concerns about the practice or services provided by a CPA Member, you should first determine whether that person is a Member of a professional regulatory body, or if there is another process by which you can file a formal complaint.

What should I do if I believe that it is appropriate to make a complaint, and the Member I wish to make a complaint against is a licensed Psychologist?

If you have a complaint involving the practice of Psychology, you should contact the provincial/territorial regulatory body in the province or territory in which the services to which you are referring were provided.  You can find a complete list of those bodies here: https://cpa.ca/public/whatisapsychologist/regulatorybodies/

It is important to note that the CPA cannot discipline its Members beyond the revocation of their membership to the CPA; it cannot serve as an appeals body for the resolution of other bodies’ complaints, and the only thing it can do, in the case of a substantiated complaint, is revoke the membership of the individual in question, and then only after a review by the CoE and a recommendation by the CPA’s Board of Directors.

What should I do if I believe that it is appropriate to make a complaint, and the Member I wish to make a complaint against is a licensed practitioner other than a licensed Psychologist?

If you have a complaint involving a Member other than a licensed Psychologist, you should first confirm which regulatory body licensed or certified the Member in question.  Typically, this can be done by performing an internet search for the name of their profession and the province in which your services were received.  For example, you could search for “psychotherapist regulation Ontario” and find the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario.  Once you have found the regulatory body, most will have a public register of their members that you can search to confirm whether you have found the correct regulatory body; then you can forward your questions to that body directly.

It is important to note that the CPA cannot discipline its Members beyond the revocation of their membership to the CPA; it cannot serve as an appeals body for the resolution of other bodies’ complaints, and the only thing it can do, in the case of a substantiated complaint, is revoke the membership of the individual in question, and then only after a review by the CoE and a recommendation by the CPA’s Board of Directors.

What should I do if I want to make a complaint, and the Member is an unlicensed practitioner, or a non-practitioner (e.g. scientist or educator)?

If you have a complaint involving an unlicensed practitioner or a non-practicing Member of the CPA, it should first be forwarded to an appropriate authority (e.g., another professional association or regulatory body of which the Member is a part, a university disciplinary committee, an institutional complaints process).

The CPA and its Committee on Ethics (CoE) do not accept complaints against Members if there is another authority to whom the complaint could be appropriately submitted.  If there is such a body, please forward your complaint to that body.  If not, please refer to the CPA “Rules and Procedures for Dealing with Reports and Complaints of Unethical Behaviour” which can be  found here: https://cpa.ca/aboutcpa/committees/ethics/rulesandproceduresfordealingwithethicalcomplaints/

It is important to note that the CPA cannot discipline its Members beyond the revocation of their membership to the CPA; it cannot serve as an appeals body for the resolution of other bodies’ complaints, and the only thing it can do, in the case of a substantiated complaint, is revoke the membership of the individual in question, and then only after a review by the CoE and a recommendation by the CPA’s Board of Directors.

What do I do if I am not in agreement with the outcome of a body’s review of my complaint?

The CPA cannot contest or re-adjudicate complaints that already have been processed by regulatory bodies; since the CPA does not license its Members, we do not have the jurisdiction to affect that license in any way.  The only thing the CPA can do, in the case of a substantiated complaint, is to revoke the membership of the individual in question, and then only after a review by the Committee on Ethics and a recommendation by the Committee to the CPA’s Board of Directors that the membership be revoked.